Good practice of volunteerism in Athienou Municipality
Volunteerism in Athienou is one of the biggest and most effective activity, that helps strengthen the social ties and creates a healthy and highly functioning society. Individuals of all ages are excited to participate and offer their time and resources towards their fellow in need. The spirit of volunteerism exists in most families and it is passed from generation to generation contributing to the healthy evolution of the society.
Athienou is a small Municipality of seven thousand inhabitants. The Municipal Council of Volunteerism MCV) of Athienou was established in 1970 to help people in need. The following years were a difficult period for Cyprus and Athienou. Social problems were exacerbated from the Turkish invasion in Cyrpus, in 1974. Ever since Athienou is a town within the buffer zone isolated from the rest of the island, with most of its rural land occupied by the Turkish troops. Many people were in need to restart their lives and volunteerism was one of the main tools that help the municipality to grow again during difficult years.
Athienou, although a highly functioning society, still suffers from isolation and seeks to find solutions in the volunteering collaboration between its citizens.
The strategic goals of the MCV are to:
Identify the social needs within the Municipality and establish the necessary social programs to tackle them.
Engage the community members into taking part in the development and upgrading the quality of life of the community.
Raise awareness and educate the public regarding the current social programs and social needs.
The MCV, with every Mayor being the President, currently operates four programs that offer solutions to social problems faced by the municipality: the Kleanthios Elder House, The Constantineleneion Centre for Adults, the Municipal Nursery Centre, and the Social Welfare Council. These programs cover the needs of almost all the generations within the municipality and they wouldn’t be possible without volunteerism. The Kleanthios Elder House (established in 1983) is a living caring organisation for the Elders which goes beyond a typical elder house, combining volunteerism and high quality standards and facilities.
The main goal of the Constantineleneion Centre for Adults (established in 2001) is to offer, on a volunteering basis, to all people over eighteen years old high quality service of social and daily living needs, daily entertaining activities, healthy food, and diminishing social exclusion in the society. The Municipal Nursery Centre (established in 1991) has managed over the years to offer high quality nursery services to the families of the community. The Social Welfare Council (established in 2012) has the goal to provide economic and any other kind of help to struggling individuals and families, based on sociology evaluation. All the programs are in a very close collaboration between them and with other local organisations (schools, church, Municipality, etc.), which achieves a strong integration of the different generations and helps achieving the set goals beyond the standards. The MCV operates on a volunteering basis. Every citizen can be a member. The members of the governmental body of the MCV are proposed by local organisations (political parties, church, schools, Municipality) and are approved by the members. The programs follow strict standards that are set and audited by the authorities, and are operated by professionals that are employed on a full-time basis, thus creating job opportunities.
Funding comes from membership subscriptions, private donations, and governmental aid. However, the essence of the program is the time and resources spent by volunteers. A basic innovative element of the MCV is the close collaboration of the volunteers and the local and national authorities. Volunteers with their activities managed to gain the recognition of the authorities and have become part of the national mechanisms for Social Welfare. A second innovative element is the uniform approach to social problems, where all the issues are managed under a single Volunteering Council. This has created the basis for collaboration between people of different generation to solve the problems of different generations. Overall, the municipality works together towards the future considering the old and the new. There is high potential for improvement of the programs. Volunteers are always active to identify social problems that might arise from modern challenges. The MCV has the strategy to use new technologies to improve its programs and facilities, given the available resources. This practise can be transferred for reuse by other European cities and communities to tackle social problems. Overall, a high sense of volunteering is a sign of a healthy and growing society. During the Covid-19 period the practice showed like it was designed to cover the people needs during the crisis, as it will be explained below in part (c).
During the Covid-19 period, the Municipality of Athienou, extra of the MCV, created the Office for Volunteerism. Through it and with announcements to the public, registered volunteers of the Municipality were helping people in need, who had just to call at the Office, making their shopping from supermarkets, buying medicines for them from drugstores, taking free food and other materials to them that was given free from companies and many others. With this activity and through the knowledge learned from the Volunteering Good Practice, no person in need in the municipality felt alone during the Covid-19 period and all of them received the required help, under the covid circumstances and with the required precautions.
Help to people in need, so that they never felt without somebody supporting them during the Covid-19 period (but of course, through the Good Practice, and through any period). The satisfaction of the people in need and the expression of gratitude and many thanks, were the main outcomes from the practice carried out. On the other hand, the satisfaction of the volunteers in accomplishing the goal of not leaving anybody in need without help was all the money. Their slogan “when you receive, your hands are filled but when you give, your heart is filled!”, is all the money.
The Good Practice of Athienou has been approved as such from the European Program URBACT and is listed in www.urbactgoodpractices.eu.
Through 2 URBACT Transfer Networks (Volunteering Cities and Volunteering Cities+), the Good Practice has been transferred or is been transferred in 11 European Cities.Through the first Network, a Guide has been produced and published, where every European City can use it to transfer the Good Practice of
Athienou in Volunteerism to their city.
The Good Practice is functioned well, the spirit of volunteerism in Athienou is high, so everything worked well, with volunteers giving real help to people in need. There was nothing that did not work well and no unexpected matters appeared, since the Good Practice is well designed and all the matters are covered through the help of the volunteers.
The benefit to the population is obvious. People in need receive the needed help and volunteering people, who like to help, receive the happiness of filling their heart!
The intervention is considered as a best practice, because it is something that is transferrable to others to use, adapting the modules of it that suit them, according to the implementation in their cities.
Volunteerism in Athienou is one of the biggest and most effective activity that helps strengthen the social ties and creates a healthy and highly functioning society. Individuals of all ages are excited to participate and offer their time and resources towards their fellow in need. The spirit of volunteerism exists in most families and it is passed from generation to generation contributing to the healthy evolution of the society ...
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